And then, all of a sudden, the semester abroad was almost over. December really came faster than everybody had expected and with it not only the cold weather, but also the examination period. I had four exams, one termpaper and one group project, that we had to do over the whole semester. All exams consisted mainly of multiple choice and 4-5 open questions. Most teachers will want you to pass so we didn’t stress too much about studying. I however spent some time in the nice library which, during that period of time, was pretty packed. My first exam was on the 18th of December, the last one on the 2nd of January. As Christmas is not a thing in China, there is no such thing as Christmas markets, gingerbread, Adventkalender or lots of decoration. The feeling was therefore definitely different than back home. Nevertheless, it´s always what you make out of it and we did our best to make the time great anyway. We played “secret Santa”, listened to Christmas songs in our dorms and went to have a nice Christmas Dinner together on the 24th. Even though it was not the same as in Germany, I personally really liked it a lot and I think most of my fellow students did too.
As we had a good amount of free time left, we went to cafes or restaurants we wanted to try, or places we wanted to go to again, before leaving China. Most of us had gotten a little tired of the canteen and the oily food of north China, so we started to enjoy the convenience of getting delivery to our dorms. It is still cheap and you can get all sorts of food. What I liked most about the delivery (apart from the good food of course) was the sense of achievement I always felt when I understood the delivery man as he always called when he has arrived at the location I ordered my food to. After just four months of studying Chinese, you will not be able to really communicate with Chinese people. Nevertheless, even the exchange of some basic sentences is fun and will make you feel super proud.
After the exams were over, most of us stayed a couple more days in Beijing before either going back home or starting to travel around the country or Asia.
Would I recommend Beijing as the place for your semester abroad? Definitely! China has really been such a great experience and I really learnt a lot (not just university wise, but also about myself). I think it was the best decision to go to a country that is so different from any other I had been to before and I am really grateful for the experiences I made, the people I met, as well as the culture, China definitely changed my way of thinking. I really used every minute and don´t know how I could have possibly fit more into the days. If you come to China you should really try to visit as many places and try as many new things as possible. You will not regret it.
If you have chosen China or are really close to doing so, here are some information and tips I would have found useful to know:
-Do yourself a favour and install VPN prior your trip. I didn’t have it and can thus say that you should better get it. It´s not just about being able to use Whatsapp, Instagram etc. but also necessary to use Google services such as maps or the browser itself. Search engines like Bing or Yahoo! might give you reasonable results in Germany, in China however you might not be getting the information you need for your termpapers as many websited (Wikipedia included) are not available
-WeChat is one of the most important Apps and it’s a MUST
-You should open up a bank account soon after your arrival, as cash is kind of impractical and WeChat Pay and its applications are widely used and super convenient. You should either go to the China Construction Bank or ICBS, which are both close to campus
-If you want to learn Chinese you should get the dictionary app “Pleco”. It is simple to use and you can also make flash cards to improve and repeat vocabulary
-You will have a hard time finding spray deodorant and shaving cream
-You will receive a Student-ID card from BFSU. If you do some sightseeing be sure to have it with you as you will be able to enjoy some discounts. If you go to Tian’anmen Square or the area surrounding the Forbidden City, you should additionally carry your passport as you will be checked
-If you get tired of walking around, get a bike app. You only need to scan the QR-code and register. It is cheap and also fun to go on a little sight seeing tour with your friends
-Bring warm clothes. Beijing does get pretty cold during winter. We had -10°C a couple of times and even though it´s a dry cold, the wind is quite harsh, and I am sure you will not regret bringing at least something warm for the first cold days
-Even though BFSU is currently building new dorms for international students, you might still end up in a double or triple room with a shared bathroom. No matter what dorm option you will get at the end, do not let that reduce your anticipation or happiness in any way! I was in a triple room with two other girls from Macromedia and I really had such a great and memorable time. It really started to feel like a little home we were happy coming back to after a long day.
Here are some more photos of my time in China:
Some of the great food I had:
If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me.